Certifications to Become a Zoologist

Zoologists work for zoos, animal sanctuaries, research laboratories and government agencies.
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Zoologists work for zoos, animal sanctuaries, research laboratories and government agencies.

For some people, a love of animals leads to a career as a zoologist. Zoologists study and care for a wide range of animals. Thanks to the work of female zoologists like Jane Goodall who have gone before, women have more opportunities in the field than in previous eras. Along with a four-year education, zoologists can opt for certification from a handful of providers to gain additional education in the field.

The Wildlife Society Wildlife Biologist

The main provider of zoological certifications, the Wildlife Society, offers two levels of certification. The Associate Wildlife Biologist designation is for entry-level zoologists who have completed a bachelor's degree or higher. As part of the degree program, the applicant must have taken 36 hours of biological science courses, including at least three hours in wildlife management, wildlife biology, ecology, zoology or botany. Once an Associate Wildlife Biologist has gained five years of professional experience, she can apply for the Certified Wildlife Biologist designation. Both designations require the applicant to reapply for certification every five years and complete at least 80 hours of continuing education courses during that time period.

The Wildlife Society Professional Development Certificate

Along with the two wildlife biologist certifications, the Wildlife Society also offers a Professional Development Certificate to any zoological or wildlife professional who may not have the educational background needed for the Wildlife Biologist certifications. To earn the certificate, applicants must complete at least 80 hours of organized activities related to wildlife biology, such as big game management, wildlife pathology, habitat management, endangered species management or wildlife law enforcement. The applicant can also submit experience hours in other categories including instruction, publications, professional service and self-improvement.

Ecological Society of America

The Ecological Society of America sponsors four levels of certification for zoologists concentrating in the field of ecology. The Ecologist-in-Training level requires a bachelor's degree or higher in ecology or a related field, including at least 30 hours in biological science, nine hours in ecology and 12 hours in physical and mathematical science. The Associate Ecologist level requires a bachelor's degree or higher and one year of professional experience. The Ecologist level mandates a master's degree and five years of experience, and the Senior Ecologist level requires a PhD and 10 years of professional experience.


Along with ecology, the field of zoology consists of various other sub disciplines, including molecular and cell biology, conservation, animal behavior and wildlife management. Zoologists can also obtain certification in one of the several zoology branches, such as Molecular Biologist Technologist Certification from the American Society of Clinical Pathology. The ASCP certification requires a bachelor’s degree or higher in biological science, along with professional experience or a previous certification from the ASCP. Other wildlife related certifications include Certified Wildlife Protector from the Wildlife Training Institute and the Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator designation from the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. Both of these certifications require passing a certification exam to earn the designation.

2016 Salary Information for Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists

Zoologists and wildlife biologists earned a median annual salary of $60,520 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, zoologists and wildlife biologists earned a 25th percentile salary of $48,360, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $76,320, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 19,400 people were employed in the U.S. as zoologists and wildlife biologists.

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